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29 July 2019


Michael R. Kesti

Please explain when and how a "...corporation becomes criminally culpable..." Does this require a conviction?

George Rebane

MichaelK 746am - Great question. Corporate criminality is usually handled by the regulatory agencies that hold hearings citing egregious violations of law/regulations at which corporate attorneys are present to present their side and appeal any 'judgments' (verdicts) that usually result in fines and orders to correct the problem and never do it again. Recent examples include a big mining company discharging its waste into a Colorado river, and VW installing fraudulent software in its cars to pass emission tests.

However, if evidence of management collusion turns up (e.g. emails, etc) that shows that the violation was attributive and purposeful, then the affected individuals can be tried separately in criminal courts with appropriate penalties. However and as you know, such post-hoc connections are highly politicized and hidden/shielded by appropriate lobbying tactics.

As mentioned above, my own druthers are not to accept corporate excuses that the outfit is too big for persons specific to be held accountable. In short, this is the 'shit happens' excuse, and when given should automatically remand the corporation into an judicial (not administrative) process that can lead to its break-up. And you can understand that this new approach has to be handled carefully, else we'll have government constantly configuring private enterprises to conform to ideological strictures. I have appended an update to a Cato Institute policy analysis on this aspect that treats tech giants and considers "monopoly fatalism".

Michael R. Kesti

George Rebane | 29 July 2019 at 09:59 AM

Thanks. I prefer holding corporations' officers responsible for their organizations to forcible break-ups. Our governments already mandate too many one-size-fits-none solutions.

George Rebane

MichaelK 105pm - That is my preference also, but it runs head on into the seminal reason corporations were invented as legal entities/agents to shield their human owners, managers, and workers from the legal recourse - i.e. the raison d'etre of the 'corporate veil'. Reading the Cato piece shares both of our concerns about govt becoming the de facto director of private enterprise - an existential disaster indeed.

It would be interesting to see how many corporate managers would resign were that veil lifted.

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